Short-term rental platform Vrbo has officially opened up advertising opportunities, thanks to its recent addition into the portfolio of Expedia Group Media Solutions, the global digital advertising organization of Expedia Group.
Vrbo, which was acquired by Expedia Group in 2015, hasn’t offered advertising on its platform in over a year. Now, advertisers — from destinations and hotels, to airlines and car rentals, to financial services and consumer goods — will be able to connect with its valuable audience of family and group travelers and short-term renters who are looking to book vacation homes, cabins, and condos.
“Vrbo is the ideal platform for brands looking to engage with high-spending family and group travel shoppers,” said Hari Nair, senior vice president of Expedia Group Media Solutions. “This audience is truly unique within the Media Solutions portfolio, staying longer, spending more, and bringing more guests to destinations than any other Expedia Group brand. It’s a very exciting addition for us.”
Vrbo’s Value Prop
There are good reasons why Vrbo’s family of websites would be attractive to advertisers: The first is that it’s one of the only major short-term rental platforms with advertising opportunities. The second is that it’s home to a sophisticated, high-spending audience.
Families and group travelers, many who are older and more affluent, tend to account for the majority of Vrbo users. About two-thirds of Vrbo’s users are parents, and more than half of its users earn over $100,000 annually. Additionally, Vrbo’s audience tends to spend five times more on a booking, take trips that are three times longer, and travel with more people than other travelers across Expedia Group’s portfolio of brands.
According to the company, last year, nearly 16 million unique users explored Vrbo each month, equating to around 250 million monthly pageviews. There’s also little user crossover between Vrbo and Expedia Group’s other platforms, which provides advertisers with a new audience. For example, only 29 percent of Hotels.com shoppers and 22 percent of Expedia shoppers also visit Vrbo.
For now, advertising opportunities will include display placements and customized landing page experiences, with the incorporation of additional formats, such as native and custom advertising, and sponsored listings planned for the future.
The Role of Short-Term Rentals in Travel’s Rebound
The travel industry as a whole is facing a wide array of challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But according to Seth Borko, Skift’s senior research analyst, “The online travel industry is marginally better positioned to deal with this current outbreak than many of their suppliers in the hotel and airline industry.” Much of this strength stems from the fact that “online booking sites focused on short-term rentals seem to be outperforming their hotel-heavy, full-service peers,” said Borko.
Vrbo is one of those online booking sites that seems to be better equipped to meet the shifting demands of customers at the moment. Borko suspects that short-term rental sites such as Vrbo are seeing stronger traffic than their peers in the traditional hotel space due to the “recent phenomenon of families temporarily leaving their homes in dense cities, where the coronavirus outbreak is worse and where home confinement in a small apartment is more restricting, to temporarily relocate to less-crowded suburban or rural destinations.”
When travel does begin to truly rebound, it will likely start with domestic and local trips and accommodations that can ensure safety and hygiene — meaning that the current surge in popularity of short-term rentals will likely endure. According to Skift’s, U.S. Travel Tracker March 2020: Travel Sentiment Amid Lockdown report, “A majority of people want to wait until it’s safe to travel. And when they do travel, they want to stay in a short-term rental that they can wipe down, and don’t need to share with any strangers. They want to travel in their own car or a rented car instead of flying, and they want to avoid densely populated urban centers that used to be the epicenters of the pandemic.” Vrbo’s own internal research found that 65 percent of its users travel to their rentals by car, while only 35 percent fly.
Expedia Group was on track to welcome Vrbo into its advertising portfolio before the Covid-19 pandemic dramatically disrupted the travel industry. But Nair believes the timing has been serendipitous. “Vacation rentals have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and with domestic and local travel looking likely to drive recovery efforts, sites like Vrbo will have an even more prominent role to play. While these are unique and challenging times, we’re excited to offer advertisers the opportunity to get in front of Vrbo’s high engaged audience as they begin to think about travel once again.”
The following article originally appeared in Skift in June 2020 and was created collaboratively by Expedia Group Media Solutions and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.